The following interview is part of a series of profile interviews focusing on the background, views and opinions of leading figures in the management consultancy arena.
| Consulting-Times E-zine
Here Diana Gerald, a Director at Rse Consulting, gives an insight into her experiences. Our thanks go to Prism Executive Recruitment for making this interview available to our readers.
Q. What was your first job?
A. Technically, my first job was whilst I was at university. I cleaned houses and after that put together cables – not very glamorous, but it paid the rent.
My first job after university was for the Boston Consulting Group as a management consultant. I was there for two years and it was a good starting point because I was certain I wanted to do something in the business world but I didn’t know exactly what and consulting seemed like a good broad introduction.
It gave me three things:
o A good understanding of what the consulting industry was like
o A good consulting tool kit
o Exposure to the way organisations work (from frontline staff to senior board members)
Q. Why a career in Management Consulting
A. I’m particularly interested in how organisations work and what helps them to change for the better. Consultancy gives excellent exposure to a wide range of organisations, an understanding of what makes them tick and then all being well provides support to help them improve. Only consulting can give you the ability to do that in any number of organisations and have the breadth of experience, along with exposure to a wide range of people. It’s an interesting job that gives me great satisfaction!
Q. What are the best and worst aspects of being a Consultant?
A. The best aspects are that it’s constantly intellectually challenging, and it’s never a job that is dull for any period of time. I love the challenge when you are engaging with people and trying to make a difference to their organisation.
The work/life balance at RSe is actually very good, so I don’t have the problems you sometimes get in consultancy of working until midnight. For me, the worst aspect is sometimes the unpredictability of things, because if something arrives on your desk at 6.30pm and you are dedicated to your client, you will want to sort it out.
Also, especially at the beginning, clients can sometimes be wary of you and what you are there to achieve – so you have to be prepared to take the time and energy to build trust.
And it’s not for everyone feeling that they might have to prove themselves everyday to a new client – although for me that’s a real buzz.
Q. Why are your people different at RSe Consulting?
A. We focus solely on the public sector. So what is different about our people is that they have a genuine passion for working in this sector, and want to use the skills of management consultancy arena to improve public services.
As an organisation we have a good sense of humour and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are also genuinely committed to work/life balance so our people are interesting because they have time to have a life and outside interests.
Finally I would say RSe look for fresh thinking and staff who can demonstrate that we are very approachable with the ability to get things done!
Q. What question are you most frequently asked by clients?
o What am I going to see at the end of this project?
o What will have changed?
Our view at RSe is that if we can’t answer these questions clearly then we, the client and RSe, shouldn’t be doing the project.
Q. What has been the most challenging situation you have faced on a project?
A. The point when you walk in and a client says to you “I don’t believe in consultancy”, always makes my heart sink a little. But this is usually due to a bad experience previously and when you do a good job this changes.
Another big challenge is when we are working in an organisation that is not performing well. Staff in these organisations can be pulled a lot of ways all at once, they can be de-motivated and often no-one has explained to them what our work is for – so there is a lot of engagement to be done at first.
On the other hand, when you enter an excellent organisation, there will be the challenge of people asking, “what can you do better?” That’s more fun because it’s a real intellectual challenge to come up with ideas that are innovative for the best public sector organisation.
Q. And the most amusing?
A. On our 5th Birthday Party we all turned up in party dresses and dinner jackets to find out we were going camping for the night to celebrate. But we had a great party and a fantastic fireworks display.
Q. What is the most exotic location you have visited on a project?
A. I used to do business travel to New York twice a week and I hated it (every hotel room looks the same wherever you are on the planet if all you are doing is working).
RSe are a UK based consultancy with UK clients so Preston, Eastbourne, Torbay and Shepway are as about as exotic as it gets, but I love it because I can see the point of what I do.
Q. What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
A. It has been three years since I joined RSe and I get an incredible buzz from the fast growth we have achieved. There is a real sense now that Rse are known in our market, and have achieved a positive reputation within the public sector.
Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your career to date?
A. RSe’s chairman Michael Bichard. He knows the public sector inside out – having run a Whitehall department and a Local Authority. His belief in the importance of energy and commitment in changing the public sector is something I find very inspiring – and his ability to communicate that to both the RSe team and to a wider audience of the public sector.
He clearly believes that there is an opportunity to change the public sector for the better – and that individuals and organisations such as Rse can make a real difference to public services.
Q. What advice would you give to someone considering a career in Management Consulting?
A. For someone starting out consultancy is a great way of gaining experience across many different organisations and understanding what type organisation might work for you in the long term even if you don’t decide to be a consultant forever.
For someone who is further along in management consulting I would strongly advise them to take a serious look at the public sector. There is a real kick to knowing the work you do impacts some of the most important aspects of people’s lives – and if it ever was the case that the public sector lagged the private sector that’s much less the case now. The very best of public sector organisations are now on a par with the best of the private sector.
Q. What do you see as the key issues facing the Management Consulting sector in the next two years?
A. Clients are getting sharper and wiser and wanting to see specifics on what consultants will bring. This is a good thing for the industry but it will hit the consultancies that grew fat on easy answers in the early 2000s hard.
Also clients rightly want consultants to have real skills and expertise in their area – we’ve grown because we know the public sector really well and so can bring a set of core thinking skills that can be applied to a range of problems plus knowledge of the sector, but things may be harder for the generalists.
Q. What activities provide relaxation outside work?
A. I spend a lot of time with my family; I am the trustee of a housing association and a school governor. I also belong to a reading group – most people at RSe do some type of volunteer work.
I am however a bit unusual for RSe in that I’m definitely not into sport of any kind – and a few months ago we were able to field three triathlon teams for a race (not bad for a company of thirty)
Q. Which five people would you most like to invite to dinner and why?
o Sir Gus O’Donnell – the current Cabinet secretary – to get under the skin of what he really sees as the challenge
o Paul Coen who is the Chief Executive of the Local Government Association, to understand what his vision was of local authorities and how he saw the local government world working.
o Wayne Rooney because I have no interest in football whatsoever, but I am surrounded by people who are and I would like to find out what it is all about.
o Paddy Ashdown because I think what he achieved in Bosnia was amazing – and probably says a lot about how you engage people to deliver long-lasting change.
o Finally, Sarah-Michelle Geller aka ‘Buffy the Vampire slayer’ because I am a great fan!
Although I don’t want to think about what this combination would look like!
To find out more about Rse Consulting and current opportunities within the company, meet with their staff at the 2006 Management Consultancy Careers Fair in London – taking place on 13th October.
About Prism Executive Recruitment
Prism Executive Recruitment specialises in end to end recruitment solutions for board level, senior management and other specialist appointments within the Management Consultancy, Professional Services and the Telecommunications, Media and Advanced Technology markets. We operate on a pan European basis.